Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Needed Time To Process This

There are times in life when I find myself unprepared for a major change. Normally, change is something I handle with relative ease and this summer has been evidence of that, but when a team steeped in tradition changes suddenly jumps into rock music, flames, and raw meat, it takes you a second or two to figure out what one has just witnessed. SKA St. Petersburg is a team that was knee-deep in tradition having been the Sport Club of the Army for the longest time, but it appears that they have some new swagger with the addition of Pavel Datsyuk and the return of Ilya Kovalchuk this season.

Let's take a look at the video that SKA St. Petersburg released earlier this season in order to get people fired up for the 2016-17 campaign.

What the... what the hell was that?!?

I admit to you that I had to watch this video numerous times as my brain processed what it saw. I get that there should be excitement for the upcoming season if you're a St. Petersburg fan, but when did the hockey club go all Mad Max: Fury Road on us?

Let's break this down, shall we?
  • At :02, there appears to be some sort of new snack food being introduced to the world as the video shows what looks like a hot dog wrapped in some sort of bun with an opening at one end only! My brain is struggling already.
  • At :03, there's a can being opened which is pretty much indicative of hockey and adult beverages being paired together once more. Three seconds into the video, we have hockey, hot dogs, and beer. SKA St. Petersburg is appealing to every sports fan right now.
  • At :10, it appears that St. Petersburg has transformed into Magnitogorsk with their steel and iron industry. Why are they sharpening a stick on a grindstone? Turning your stick into an axe of any kind is probably worthy of a suspension. Don't do that, kids.
  • At :15, there's the obligatory cheerleader shot. Because Russia doesn't oppress women. Often.
  • At :19, there's a guy hitting a tractor tire with a sledgehammer. The only rational explanation for this is that this imagery represents a player hitting a puck with a stick. Yes, I've stretched that rationale as far as I can. No, I'm not sorry for that.
  • At :21, you get your first view of the flaming guitar played by the guy who appears to be from a 1990s-esque heavy metal band. The shredded SKA jersey only adds to his badass-edness.
  • At :24, the first really cool part of the video appears as the goaltender's mask is rigged to show two different colors. Could they do this in a real game? How much would that mess with shooters if the color changed while looking at the goalie?
  • At :30, it seems as though SKA is employing a full orchestra of brass instruments. By my count, there are six trumpet-like instruments, two trombones, a French horn, two tubas, and whole brass musical accompaniment edited over this scene at this point. Well done, video editors.
  • At :31, we finally get to see a few of the players outside of Datsyuk and Kovalchuk who will actually take to the ice this season. Vadim Shipachyov and Evgenii Dadonov are two prominent players seen, and they should be key contributors this season.
  • At :35, we see that fans of SKA are mostly carnivorous as one fan in a jersey bites into what appears to be raw meat. Yum? What significance does this have on how they play hockey?
  • At :36, the flaming "CKA" didn't translate well. I get the idea, but the execution fails horribly. Let's just hope SKA's offence doesn't resemble their flaming letters.
  • At: 37, the French horn player gets some serious isolation from the rest of the brass ensemble. Is she friends with the director of this video?
  • At: 38, more players. Anton Belov, an excited Mikko Koskinen, and a quick glimpse of Maxim Chudinov are included in this section. Note that Koskinen is wearing #19. The two Russian goalies on SKA's roster wear #30 and #34. Expect the Finn to be different.
  • At :42, we get more raw meat eating, more fire guitar playing, more cheerleadering, an AK-47 shooting something off-camera, Pavel Datsyuk, Mikko Koskinen, and a goal celebration before seeing the logo at the end. That seems to be everything St. Petersburg hockey is known for, right?
Look, all jokes aside, this promotional ad has 50% hockey and 50% crazy. I'm happy that SKA has the budget and ability to produce these sorts of ads, but the thing they should focus on is the hockey on the ice. Why, you ask? Take a look at this goal and tell me it's not pretty.
That goal by SKA's second line, made up of Evgenii Dadonov, Nikita Gusev, and Vadim Shipachyov, is certainly a front-runner for goal of the year and we haven't even broken camp for NHL teams yet. Ak Bars Kazan had no answer for those three, and the puck was fished out of the back of the net. As good as that second line looks, though, the first line might be even better.

Ilya Kovalchuk and Pavel Datsyuk are starting to find chemistry on the top line in St. Petersburg, and that should worry the rest of the KHL. Here's what they did last night to salvage a point from Ak Bars Kazan despite falling 6-5 in the shootout.
That goal was scored with less than five seconds to play in the game, and sent the game to extra time tied at 5-5. You can't tell me that Datsyuk's addition - both in talent and leadership - isn't paying off for SKA. Kovalchuk, who had a horrendous season last year, is playing like he's 20 again. The scariest part is that we're only four games into the season.

I guess that promotional ad is good for building a little excitement in fans, but I don't buy the hype of flaming guitars, iron working and blacksmithing, and cheerleaders. The evidence of how this team will play is found in what they do on the ice. Right now, they appear to be having fun and scoring highlight reel goals which is for what fans should really be excited.

Don't buy the hype, folks. Let the highlights and stats do the talking.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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